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I Tried It: Cycle Syncing to Balance Hormones

Cycle Syncing

I was prescribed hormonal birth control pills for nearly 15 years and consider myself lucky to have never had a bad experience while taking the contraceptives. However, in my late twenties and early thirties, I had a growing curiosity about what my life — and my body — would be like without my prescription. I finally scratched that itch last year and went off the pill for the first time since I was a teenager. 

My Cycle Syncing Experience

My experience was relatively uneventful at first. I noticed that my brain felt less foggy a few weeks after going off the pill. But aside from that, my cycles were within the normal 28 to 30-day range, my periods were similar to what I had experienced while on birth control, and, honestly, I felt better mentally than I had in years. 

Then, around six months after I stopped taking birth control, I noticed that my cycles were slowly inching away from that normal range and into 40, 45, and even 60-day territory. I didn’t think anything of it at first. I knew it was weird, but everything else remained unchanged, so I let it go. As a squeamish person, I was also pretty thrilled not to bleed as frequently, since I was only getting my period once every month and a half to two months. That all changed when I picked up In the FLO: Unlock Your Hormonal Advantage and Revolutionize Your Life by Alisa Vitti. 

I don’t think I have ever read a book that has impacted and empowered me more than In the FLO. The book is a catch-all for invaluable knowledge about important women’s health topics that so often go disregarded by society. From learning about what actually goes on during the four phases of a woman’s cycle to finding out that you can impact your hormones through everyday habits, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor at least once a chapter. 

Balancing your hormones through lifestyle changes is a method known as cycle syncing. According to Angie Marie, a fertility awareness educator, doula, and author of The Cycle Syncing Handbook. This method is a tool that allows you to collect data about your menstrual cycle and how it affects the way you feel, think, act, and perform. “Menstruators who practice cycle syncing know what part of their cycle they’re experiencing each day, what’s going on at the hormonal level, and how they can best set themselves up for comfort and success, depending on their current needs,” she explains. “They might change the way they move, eat, work, and manage stress differently, depending on where they are in their cycle.” 

This got me thinking: Maybe cycle-syncing my life will get my hormones back to a 28 to 30-day range. I immediately bought a fresh notebook (something I do when I am very serious about a subject) and took extensive notes on Vitti’s advice for balancing your hormones through food, exercise, and lifestyle. 

What It’s Like to Cycle Sync for Hormone Balance 

Vitti’s book isn’t about following a specific diet or short-lived program to optimize hormone health. It’s a holistic approach to making impactful habitual changes that, with time, feel as natural as the ebb and flow of hormones. It teaches you the food, exercise, and lifestyle habits that correspond best with each phase of the cycle and offers an accessible approach to implementing them into your life. Instead of cycle-syncing all aspects of your life on day one, you start small with just one category — I chose exercise. 

Exercise: This wasn’t my first time cycle-syncing my workouts. In the past, I followed a program designed to use the different phases of your cycle to fuel your workouts without leaving you fatigued. Since I already had some experience, this felt like the best entry point for getting “In the FLO.” While you can introduce the method at any point in your cycle, it just so happened that I started my period on the first day of my new regimen. So, for the first few days, I followed gentle workouts that felt nourishing and restorative while in my menstrual phase. 

Cycle Syncing
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Lifestyle: After the first week of cycle syncing my workouts, it was time to introduce another component: lifestyle. Since this is a larger category that encompasses work, family, and social settings, I started small and focused on fine-tuning my work habits to better serve my cycle phase. Then, over the next two weeks, I began also implementing other lifestyle components like home chores, family responsibilities, and social activities. 

Food: The first two weeks of my experiment were all about implementing the exercise and lifestyle components. So, on the third week, it was time to start testing out some of the food recommendations. There isn’t a specific diet. Instead, you’re meant to add and subtract certain types of food to better support certain hormone fluctuations at different points of your cycle. For example, eating more leafy greens and sweet potatoes can support the luteal phase, while iron-rich foods like beans and quinoa are great for the menstrual phase. 

Does Cycle Syncing Work?  

I’m only a couple of months into my journey and have already experienced some of the benefits of cycle syncing. While my cycles aren’t quite at that normal range yet, they have begun to shorten again, and my most recent cycle was around 45 days long, which is an improvement from the previous 60-day cycle length. However, it’s important to note that although cycle syncing can work, there are some key ways to improve the overall experience. Additionally, cycle syncing is just one way to balance out hormones, and, in some cases, it might not be as effective if there is an underlying reason for abnormal cycle lengths. 

“The practice of cycle syncing is most powerful when you are tracking your fertility signs, which include basal body temperature [aka, your temperature while you sleep] and cervical mucus observations,” says Marie. “These signs give you valuable insight into whether you’re ovulating regularly, which is a sign of a healthy hormonal cycle,” she explains. After going off birth control, I started tracking my basal body temperature and logging those details in the Natural Cycles app. Through this data and monthly ovulation tests, I saw that, while the phases of my menstrual cycle were longer than normal, I have confirmed ovulation. 

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An abnormal cycle length can also provide insight into other underlying conditions. So, while you can sync your life to your menstrual cycle, you can’t isolate it entirely when addressing hormonal concerns. “Your body operates as a set of systems — it’s connected to your brain, metabolism, sleep, digestion, and more,” says Marie. “If one system is out of whack, there’s a good chance it will affect another system downstream, one of which is your menstrual cycle.”   

Because of this, I am also working with my doctor to determine what — if anything — might cause my hormonal imbalances while continuing to implement the In the FLO method. I find that even though I haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of things, looking at my habits through the lens of the menstrual cycle phases is an excellent way for me to find balance in my life and prevent burnout by utilizing the various energy levels I already naturally experience throughout my cycle. 

The Takeaway on the Experience

Throughout this experience, I have gained a newfound appreciation for fluctuating hormones and how, as women, we have this extra body clock that we can use to our advantage. While I am not quite where I want to be on my hormone journey, diving deeper into the world of cycle syncing has made me feel empowered to listen to my body and support all four phases of the menstrual cycle through what I eat, how I exercise, and my overall lifestyle habits. 

I’ve also gained a new perspective on taking care of my hormones from within, too. This means considering my vaginal pH levels and how probiotics such as the ones found in HUM Nutrition’s Private Party can support my health. I’ve also recently started working with a Chinese Medicine doctor. She prescribed a Dong Quai supplement — which is also found in HUM Nutrition’s Hormone Balance — to balance estrogen levels. 

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